The young family freed Thursday from Haqqani network captivity have boarded a commercial flight to London from Islamabad, Pakistan, and will travel to Canada from there, a Pakistani military official told CNN.
Joshua Boyle, a Canadian, and his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, were held hostage by the network for five years after they were abducted while travelling in Afghanistan. Each of the couple’s three children were born in captivity.
Speculation abounded Thursday after media reports said Boyle had refused to board a US transport plane that American officials had arranged for them. One US official told The Associated Press that Boyle had been nervous about being in “custody” given his background, though another official clarified that the family was not formally in US custody.
White House chief of staff John Kelly also said on Thursday that US officials had “arrangements to transport them back to the United States, or to Canada, anywhere they wanted to go.” He added that the family is receiving medical and psychological treatment.
“They have been essentially living in a hole for five years,” Kelly said.
It’s unclear what precisely about Boyle’s background made him nervous around US officials, but media reports have noted that Boyle was once married to Zaynab Khadr — the sister of the Canadian-born former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr — who has expressed sympathies with Al Qaeda.
The siblings’ late father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was an Al Qaeda financier close to Osama bin Laden, with whom the family had once briefly stayed. Officials, however, have dismissed any notion that the family’s capture was connected to Boyle’s previous marriage. In 2014, they described the Khadr family link as a “horrible coincidence.”
In an interview with the Toronto Star on Thursday, which took place during a phone call to his Ontario-based parents, Boyle said his family looks forward to rebuilding their lives.
“My family is obviously psychologically and physically shattered by the betrayals and the criminality of what has happened over the past five years,” Boyle told the Star. “But we’re looking forward to a new lease on life, to use an overused idiom, and restarting and being able to build a sanctuary for our children and our family in North America.”
Boyle added, jokingly, “I have discovered there is little that cannot be overcome by enough Sufi patience, Irish irreverence, and Canadian sanctimony.”
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